MOSCOW, Idaho — For Bowling Green State University quarterback Matt Schilz, playing the 2011 season opener at the University of Idaho was as close to a “home” game as it gets.
“I had 14-15 people out here, and it was awesome,” the native of Arcadia, Calif., said. “It’s good to have your family cheering you on.
“Hopefully we can make a bowl game out here if that’s possible, because that would be awesome.”
Bowl game? Yes, that’s how much excitement the Falcons felt after pummeling Idaho 32-15 in a contest that really wasn’t that close. It was only one victory, but it also was a first step in erasing all the doubts created by last year’s 2-10 season.
“I don’t know if this is eye-opening, but I do know this is one good win for us,” BG coach Dave Clawson said. “There are a lot of challenges in football, but the two biggest are coming back from a heart-breaking loss and coming back from an emotional win.
“We will give the team [Friday] off, but then we’re going to get our hard-hats on and get back to work because there is a lot to coach.”
There was a lot of things to get excited about too. One was an offense that rolled to 377 yards in 38 plays, or an average of 9.9 yards per play, in the first half on the way to 30 straight points.
Schilz completed 12-of-15 passes in the half for 248 yards, with Eugene Cooper scoring on passes of 76 and 24 yards in the first quarter. And the ground game pounded out 129 yards in that half thanks to an offensive line that didn’t allow Schilz to be sacked all half.
“They did an amazing job — it was one of the main reasons we won,” Schilz said of the line. “We ran the ball well, and those guys really stepped up.”
While the Falcons didn’t score on offense in the second half, they did finish with 478 yards of total offense, including 187 yards rushing. And the most jaw-dropping stat was that Bowling Green held the ball for 40:19, including more than 21 minutes of the second half.
“We were more conservative [on offense in the second half],” Clawson admitted. “We were playing good defense, controlling the line of scrimmage.
“And on some of those drives we didn’t score, but we took minutes off the clock. I wanted to keep it close to the vest, and I thought we managed it well.”
The Falcons could be so conservative because the defense held the Vandals in check for most of the game. Things started out poorly, though, when Idaho executed a double pass for 51 yards on the second play from scrimmage to set up an early touchdown.
“In football, you have to have a short-term memory because there are going to be plays that bust out,” defensive tackle Chris Jones said. “We just shrugged it off and kept playing.”
And that defense did more than just play: If you exclude that 51-yard pass, the Falcons allowed just 128 yards of total offense in the first half. Outside of a 63-yard drive that allowed Idaho to score with 14:44 left in the fourth quarter, BG surrendered just 48 yards in 23 plays and registered a safety as well as two more turnovers.
And there were special moments on special teams as well. Punter Brian Schmiedebusch was a weapon, drilling one punt 81 yards while landing two others inside the Idaho five, one of which set up that BG safety. And while kicker Kyle Burkhardt did bounce one extra point off the post, he also made a 39-yard field goal late in the second quarter.
“It was great to see us make that field goal — that might have been my happiest play of the day,” Clawson said.
“Kyle has been so good in camp. And that field goal was big because it made it a three-score game.
“And Brian certainly set the bar high for himself in his first game.”
But amid all the post-game euphoria, Clawson sounded a cautious tone: Even though it was exciting, it was only one win.
“We’re not there yet — we’re a work in progress,” he said. “There are a lot of things we need to do to get better.
“We blew a coverage at the end. We needed to make a first down at the end of the game, and there’s going to be a time this year where we’re going to need to do that at the end of the game, and it’s going to decide the game.
“Obviously this was a great start for us, but we need to get better.”
Contact John Wagner at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6481.